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Midway Black History

Former high school basketball players (Midway and Woodford County high schools) that played basketball under coach Ed Allin attended a ceremony at the Midway Thoroughbred Theater honoring Coach Allin. The event took place in 2008.  Pictured, from left, Lonnie Jackson, Herbert Bush, coach Ed Allin, William Bland, Fred Jackson.  (Photo by John McDaniel)

I have written about this particular episode in Midway’s black history before. This year I had something else planned, but I found out that one of the people involved in this saga will be introducted into the Woodford County Public Schools Hall of Fame this year (there are others in this story that have already been inducted into the WCPS Hall of Fame). The man that I am writing about this week is white so you may ask why I would write about a white man in a black history article. It is because he played a part in Midway’s black history and Kentucky’s black history.

Ed Allin lived in Midway for a number of years and was a basketball coach at Midway High School in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. When Midway High School merged with Versailles High School to become WCHS, he became coach at Woodford County High School until 1971.

Midway High School basketball truly had a place in Kentucky’s black history. It was during the 1956-57 basketball season that Midway High School was integrated. The black students, who lived in Midway, and had been attending Simmons High School in Versailles, began attending Midway High School. Although the records from Midway High School were lost, it is thought that since Midway had its own school board that Midway should be responsible for its own black student population. The Midway School Board took on that responsibility by integrating the Midway

School. As a result of that integration the Midway basketball team inherited several fine black student athletes and as a result, Robert Underwood, aka Aye’ A. Aton (the first African-American to start on an integrated Kentucky High School basketball team and twice inducted into the WCPS Hall of Fame) and Alfred Guy (inducted into the WCHS Hall of Fame) became members of the Midway High School varsity basketball team. William Darneal became a member of Midway’s “B” team.

After searching the internet trying to determine which integrated Kentucky High School had the first African-American basketball players on its team, I ran across a timeline of sporting events in Kentucky. The timeline read, “1957…… the color barrier in high school basketball is broken by Hazard, which has three African-American players roster. Midway had two African-American players on its varsity roster on its roster as early as 1956.” Coach Allin, coach of that team showed me “The Echo,” Midway High School’s yearbook for the 1956-57 school years. Midway High School made history by having the first starting varsity African-American player on an intergrated team in Kentucky.

William “Bill” Grimes, another WCHS Hall of Fame inductee, was Coach Allin’s assistant coach.

Coach Ed Allin went on to coach at Woodford County High School in 1964. It was during his second year of coaching at WCHS that he fielded an all-black starting five making WCHS one of the first, if not the first, integrated schools to do so. The team won the Central Kentucky Conference title going 17-0 and winning the CKC Tournament.

The Midway Renaissance History committee honored Coach Allin at a ceremony at the Thoroughbred Theater in 2008 as a Midway High School basketball coach and for his efforts in breaking racial barriers in high school basketball. Even on short notice over 50 of the players that he had coached were on hand to congratulate him and speak on his behalf. Allin lives in Lexington and will be inducted during the next WCHS Hall of Fame ceremony.

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